It is no longer a debate that several businesses in various sectors of the global economy have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Restrictions on the movement of people and public gatherings have literally rendered some business activities ineffective, and printing firms are among them.
A visit by Citi Business News shows that Accra New Town’s vibrant printing industry has almost been crippled by the Coronavirus pandemic in the last few months.
Accra Newtown is host to a number of printing houses in the capital, which are responsible for the printing of wedding invites, funerals invitation cards, obituaries, souvenirs, paraphernalia, business cards among others.
But just like many other businesses in the country, the firms have been negatively affected by the pandemic.
At ADVALUE and ANKHITA for instance, less than a third of their usual sales was made in the last three to four months. A Welder and Manager at ADVALUE, Ishmael Saddick, said, “It (COVID-19) has affected the business massively, because when this pandemic started, all our sales have reduced. For example, the more people go out there for events, the more money comes in. No events, no cash. Prior to the outbreak, roughly about thirty (30) to forty (40) people walked in everyday to transact business with us, but now only about five people come in on a good day. And sometimes like you can see right now, we just idle about because no customer walks in.”
Tyron, a worker at ANKHITA shared a similar sentiment.
“Before COVID, we used to get at least 20 people coming in, but now, in a day sometimes not even a single person comes in. Look around, since morning I’ve been here but nobody has come in for business,” he lamented.
According to an International Labour Organization (ILO) report, nearly 200 million people could lose their jobs globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak is also expected to wipe out 6.7% of working hours across the world during the second quarter of 2020.
This situation at Imani Impressions, another printing house located at Accra Newtown was almost the same.
At the time of Citi Business News’ visit, management had put in place a shift system where half of the employees work for two weeks, and the other half takes over from them.
“Our finances have been affected and because of that, not long ago we decided on letting some of the staff work for two weeks instead of the regular four weeks we have in a month. So, one group will stay home for two weeks while the other group works from the office, and when they come back, the other group will also go home for two weeks to complete the full month. We had to adopt this approach because COVID-19 has really affected our finances,” said the Production Manager, Joseph Akunor.
But in the case of ADVALUE, two extra marketing personnel were engaged only at a point where the spread of the virus in Ghana appeared to have diminished.
“The number of workers we had before the outbreak has rather increased. No one was let go. We used to have two marketing personnel, but we added two more recently. The plan was to boost our presence on the outside, since people don’t deliberately walk in anymore,” Ishmael again.
According to these firms, prices of raw materials for production over the period have also been hard to come by due to border closures.
“For now, our inks are finished, and we need to purchase more, but because the borders are closed, we have to wait until they are opened, so we can get more. We however can’t say we don’t have all the raw material, but when it comes to some magnitude of work, it cant be done because the resources will not suffice,” said Ishmael.
In order to alleviate the plight of individuals and businesses, the government of Ghana reduced the cost of electricity by 50 percent for three months, while those who consume much less, enjoyed free electricity for the months of April, May and June. The printing houses say this intervention came as a relief.
“We enjoyed the discount very well; we like it and we appreciate it. Before the Coronavirus pandemic, we used to buy about Ghs100 to Ghs200 worth of credit and this would last for three to four days depending on how much work comes in, but because of what the President has done when we buy Ghs100 for instance, it lasts for one week and sometimes eleven (11) days,” Ishmael exclaimed.
“I’ll be glad if he could extend the electricity discounts till the end of the year. When I buy Ghs200 worth of Prepaid, I get to keep Ghs80 to myself. I think it’s helping me financially so I think he can do good by continuing,” Tyron briefly added.
Machines like the laminator and the embroidery machine which are heavily used by these firms have been left to gather dust, and according to the companies, even though government’s coronavirus Alleviation Programme is a step in the right direction, it might not be the solution to their problems.
“I’m not a fan of loans so I’d rather inject my own capital into the business, no matter how little. It (the Coronavirus Alleviation Program) may help some people in other sectors because to be sincere, some people need it urgently, but we don’t, we just need customers” Tryon noted.